After insisting for such a long time that this move would never happen, the Dallas Cowboys are moving into the 2017 season with converted LG La'el Collins as their replacement to the retired Doug Free at RT. Collins has plenty of upside moving back to his college position at tackle, enough for NFL.com's Marc Sessler to project him as Dallas' most likely player to appear in his first Pro Bowl.
The pads haven't even come on yet for the Cowboys through OTAs, and yet Collins has translated the power and speed that made him an instant fan favorite at guard in 2015 on the field at RT.
Projecting first-time Pro Bowlers for each NFC team: https://t.co/ztLuvaUuVT (via @MarcSesslerNFL) pic.twitter.com/gbo9ECk8fM
Playing next to four-time Pro Bowler Tyron Smith and three-time Pro Bowler Travis Frederick undoubtedly helped La'el transition into the league as a rookie before having 2016 washed away due to injury, but lining up outside of the best guard in football has had a similar effect.
As Bryan Broaddus wrote in his “Scout's Notebook” observation of OTAs:
“Talk about two athletes on the right side of that offensive line with Zack Martin and La'el Collins. Both pulled to their right on a hand off to Ezekiel Elliott and you would have sworn that it was a mirror. Their technique was the exact same coming off the ball and it caught the defenders off guard on the second level with how quick they were to the outside.”
If La'el Collins is going to make the Pro Bowl in his third year and first as a right tackle, he will have to earn it. Strong side defensive ends like Von Miller, Vic Beasley, and Khalil Mack will all get their shot against him and Dak Prescott on the Cowboys' first place schedule this season.
Our Staff Writer Kevin Brady wrote earlier last month that – in his own opinion – Collins has a great chance of being the newest member of the Space Cowboys to represent America's Team at the Pro Bowl, regardless of his position.
“Whether he ends up at right tackle of left guard this season, third year offensive lineman La'el Collins has a shot to be the fourth Pro Bowler on that vaunted Dallas Cowboys offensive line.
Collins has flashed All-Pro potential before, but inconsistency and injury have plagued him over his first two professional seasons. Still, with a couple of years in the league under his belt, it is time for Collins to take that next step in his career.”
When paired with my own film review on La'el Collins' ability at tackle, the potential is certainly there for the right side of the Cowboys' offensive line, starting at center, to collectively block at the Pro Bowl.
Of course, they'll have to turn down these offers along with Smith, because the unit expects to be steamrolling their way to the Super Bowl.